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Harry Binswanger on Gun Control

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Do we not still enjoy civilian control of the military? They were Iraqi tanks that were destroyed , not US citizens' vehicles, yes?

Yep, we do. If our government ever "turned" then one of two things would happen:

1. Our military would not turn with it, and we'd basically have a new government run by the military.

2. Our military would be controlled by the rogue government.

In either case, civilian pop guns are of absolutely no consequence.

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We've gone over this point--that guns are necessary for individuals to own in case our government (and by extension its military) went "rogue" such that we can defend ourselves.

Who is "we"?

I hear this argument again and again. It's preposterous.

To what "argument" are you referring?

In the Iraq war, the US army destroyed 2000 Iraqi tanks in about 100 hours. A bunch of unorganized civilians with pop guns are nothing compared to our modern military. Nothing.

Civilian weapons in this day and age are completely irrelevant to the protection of our country against tyranny. What are discussing is the right of hobbyists to collect the collectables they want to collect, nothing more.

Are you talking about "the right of hobbyists"? That's not what I'm talking about.

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Anarchy, practical, anarcho or otherwise, is a nonprincipled stance and this passage I think illustrates that point. Markets can only function optimally in a society with a strong, or highly principled governemnt stucture. To say that it would be possible to blend market effects with the institution of government is to divorce the concepts (market and governement) from their 'meanings'.

A rational government would be one of laws not man, obviously people would perform the functions of government but only to the extend of carrying out the laws(in bureaucratic fashion).

Markets , division of labor, come about because individuals will voluntarily associate with one and other if they feel their rights will be protected and secured by a stable government.

Human nature is immalleable, no?

A proper government based on rational ethics and politics is possible, would it arise from competing ideas or structures? Possibly but it seems to be putting thecart

before the horse.

Marketsw on the other hand are the aggregate result of voluntary trade betweens millions of individuals, and are fallible. Markets do not necessarily bring about the best or most rational choices, hence the need to base human institutions of governance on 'hard' principles, eg the US constitution( ultimately minus some contradictions).

Well again, I've already answered this objection and tried to be more than accomodating to you in the other thread. Notice there is no argumentation in there, just a string of assertions. Well, okay, I agree we should have law, more law in fact, I agree with rational law (actually I think this is a redundancy), however I just think that this rules out monopoly, and that a monopolist of law is lawless. I want a rational ethics and politics too, I'm definitely not opposed to that. I agree that to "blend market effects with the institution of government is to divorce the concepts (market and governement) from their 'meanings,'" but I think this yeilds a conclusion different from yours. In the interest of not derailing this thread, why feel free to explain why you think the market can't produce objective law in one of the many other threads dedicated to this topic and I will be glad to respond.
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Are you talking about "the right of hobbyists"? That's not what I'm talking about.

You mentioned that a primary driver of gun rights in the USA has to do with the idea that we can use our guns to protect ourselves in the event of tyranny:

Suppose I want to be able to defend myself against the future possibility of a tyrannical government, and so I would like to possess a nuclear weapon so that, should the government turn tyrannical and initiate force against its citizenry, I would have the capability of mounting a meaningful response in the name of self-defense. I may even hold out some hope that my mere possession of such a thing will function as a deterrent against said tyranny.

Did I not understand that correctly? I admit I might not have followed the entire line of reasoning there...

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Well again, I've already answered this objection and tried to be more than accomodating to you in the other thread. Notice there is no argumentation in there, just a string of assertions. Well, okay, I agree we should have law, more law in fact, I agree with rational law (actually I think this is a redundancy), however I just think that this rules out monopoly, and that a monopolist of law is lawless. I want a rational ethics and politics too, I'm definitely not opposed to that. I agree that to "blend market effects with the institution of government is to divorce the concepts (market and governement) from their 'meanings,'" but I think this yeilds a conclusion different from yours. In the interest of not derailing this thread, why feel free to explain why you think the market can't produce objective law in one of the many other threads dedicated to this topic and I will be glad to respond.

First of all thanks for the back arching accomodation, secondly listing assertions can be considered argumentation in some circles(when the opposing view rests on less than principled first assertions),so either my assertions are not principledly asserted or they are poorly articulated.

The reason I do not think that markets can produce principles is based on what markets 'are'. For markets to exist there must first be the rule of law(yes I agree rational law is redundant), the idea of anarcho-anything seemingly tries to derive fuundamentals from consequences.

Please direct me to the correct thread and I will continue my reasoning(or lack thereof) there, of course only as long as you consider accomodating my rankings is appropriate.

Edited by tadmjones
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All right, I'd just like to be very clear about this. (I'd like to be very clear about everything, if possible, even beyond a general desire for clarity, but because there are so many "moving parts" to a discussion like this.)

If I understand you right, you're saying that a private citizen cannot possibly employ a nuclear weapon in self-defense because there would be too much "collateral damage"; "because its use would be impossible to pinpoint the intended target without spillover effects onto innocent third parties."

But isn't it also true that a government's use of a nuclear weapon "would be impossible to use to pinpoint the intended target without spillover effects" in that very same manner?

So I read you as saying that nuclear weapons should be permitted to no individual or group (including governments/countries) on Earth whatsoever -- because their use is not "compatible with the non-initiation of force principle." Do I have this right?

I think for the most part, yes. As I explained earlier, it would mostly be a practical question of what is justifiable to stop an aggressor. I have no doubt that this would rule out most "conventional" military hardware as well, in all cases except an invasion by another state's military. It certainly would rule out most of the "war on terror" and current military tactics.

I'm probably "somewhere in the middle" with you. I'm certainly no pacifist... but if the alternative to pacifism is given as "all's fair in war," I don't know that I can concur with that, either. In "The Objectivist Ethics," Rand said:

And, speaking as Galt in Atlas Shrugged:

While I think that it's true that some amount of collateral damage may be unavoidable in the prosecution of one's right of self-defense, especially in times of war, Rand's quotes certainly seem to agree with your position that "discrimination in the use of retaliatory force must be essential."

Does this take nuclear weapons off the table completely? I don't think that it can. Supposing a situation where some enemy nation itself has nuclear weapons, I think that there are cases where a retaliatory nuclear strike (or a preemptive one, depending on context) may be justified -- as being the only thing that can reasonably be expected to effect a defense of one's life.

What do you make of that?

I think that could be plausible. Like I hinted to earlier, I think you can measure the permisibility of causing collateral damage with certain variables, and one might be the lack of ability to stop an aggressor with alternate means, and if that's the case, then I think it can be justified, but I think the situation would have to be a very extreme one to warrant a very extreme response.

To answer these kinds of questions I always try to imagine we are talking about a threat in downtown NYC. Let us imagine a terrorist group based out of Boston got ahold of a nuclear weapon and threatened to nuke NYC if we didn't disband the NY Yankees or something. Would the first thing we think of be "Omg, clearly we have to nuke Boston," or would we think "Well, we have to find these guys and get them before they can use it." And we would probably resort to some kind of special forces to do it, precisely because the surrounding people are innocents. At the most, in another country, we might have to bomb their buildings or some such because they have greater defenses, so you can see the variables for justifying a greater magnitude of defensive force go up.

I didn't/don't mean to speak to the "homogeneity of the military," or lack thereof, or the likelihood of the US military, as presently constituted, waging war against US citizens. A "classic argument" against gun control (as I'm quite certain you know) is that private arms are necessary to defend oneself against tyranny -- and possibly, at times, to wage revolution. So I raise this point, at least in part, so that this discussion can be situated in familiar contexts.

But okay. If you're saying what I think you're saying, then you don't think that the "military" ought to have legal access to any weapon that a "citizen" cannot, and vice-versa. Which means that nuclear weapons are either permitted to "one and all," or somehow to be eliminated entirely, with respect to every institution on Earth. (Or at least that every actor would be beholden to the same restrictions.)

Do I have this right?

Yeah, I think that's right, unless I'm missing something.

I'm beginning to feel like this discussion of gun/weapon control -- especially that part of the discussion that we conduct -- might spiral inescapably into the question of "government" and "anarchy." And frankly? That excites me, because I've long wanted to engage you on the topic.

In "America's Persecuted Minority: Big Business," Ayn Rand said:

I wonder. Must an individual delegate his right of self-defense to some external agency? Is this delegation a choice that a man actually makes? Is it a choice that he makes once? Daily/moment-to-moment? Or is it something that is rightfully forced upon a person, whether he would choose it for himself or not?

When Rand says that it is "for [a] purpose" -- it leads me to believe that this is an appeal to man's mind. And the content of that purpose is "an orderly, legally defined enforcement." But is that enough? Is the trade of one's "right of self-defense" in an indivdual's interest merely for "order" or "legal definition," which it seems to me is available equally to such "orderly" states as the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany.

Or should one only be willing to delegate his right of self-defense to a government which is committed to the principles of objective justice; i.e. a "proper government"? And of a "proper government," Rand-as-Galt says:

Given that no actual government on Earth has ever been "proper" by this standard -- but every instance of government has been an initiatior of force against its own people -- then would it make sense for any individual to be willing to delegate his right of self-defense to such an authority? And if we consider arms to be part-and-parcel of one's "right of self-defense" -- and in the context of "gun control" (as Eiuol has argued for, and I think quite well) part of that which one "delegates" -- then would it make sense for any individual to voluntarily cede his right to arms?

Further, I wonder if one's delegation of the "right of self-defense" is meant to be absolute? Meaning: post-delegation, does one still have the "right of self-defense" that one had initially? Is it gone completely? Has any part been retained? I know that some have drawn distinctions between an immediate application of "self-defense" and the administration of what we'd normally call "justice," as even in a state with a proper government, there will be criminals against which an individual would have to defend himself before the government is able to respond. Is the resolution of gun control (in a proper state) to be found there? Can we draw a sensible distinction between those weapons "proper" to personal and immediate self-defense versus the weapons "proper" to those aspects of "self-defense" that we consider to be delegated absolutely to the government?

In any event, even a proper government cannot predict the future to guarantee that its citizens will not suffer from future tyranny. So would a proper government seek to eliminate its citizens' ability to defend themselves against such a thing in the first place? Or is one of the hallmarks of a proper government that it will undertake the defense of its individual citzens' right to self-defense, now and in the future, by not reducing any individual's means to defend himself; i.e. that it will not seek any form of gun/arms control?

By "practical anarchy" are you referring to George H Smith's example of the angels and the halos? That just occured to me since we're talking about consent doctrine now. In any event, yes, I think if you have a right, and you delegate that right, then in order for it to count as a genuine right, you also have to have the ability to not delegate it, or to delegate it to someone else that meets the same standards. And that, also, If you did really hold to the consent doctrine, it would make you a "practical anarchist" because no such consent can ever arise from a coercive monopoly, or else it ceases to become one.

But to answer you specific questions, well first of all we don't know what Rand thought about delegating one's right to self defense, as far as whether it is a once and for all thing, or day to day thing, mainly because she never said. She never explained how this consent manifested itself, so anyone else making claims about it is just conjecture. But I just try to approach it from any other people of view. If I delegate you to go buy my groceries for me, in order for it to count as an actual right I am delegating to you, it surely must be an ongoing thing, for there would be no way to justify continuing to buy my groceries for me for the rest of my life, even if I say "no, I changed my mind, I don't like your choices and I want someone else to buy my groceries." And if I'm not free to say "no," then in what sense is this a "right" that I actually have and not something that was foisted on me without my consent? Even Piekoff in OPAR seems to suggest that an anarchist would have the right not to delegate his right to self-defense to the government, just that he can't act as a vigilante. Well that's all good and well, but that still falls short of justifying a coercive monopoly, as I've pointed out before, being committed to the view that vigilantism is unjustified doesn't commit you to a monopoly government.

As far as would this draw a parallel to gun control, I don't think so. If we accept the consent doctrine, it still doesn't answer the question of whether any government could monopolize retaliatory force without violating the consent doctrine. But even if we assume it could, then it still doesn't get over the obstacle of "Well I'm not using it for retaliatory force. I'm just a collector. Or I am a museum owner. Or I have a hobby where I like to drive my tank around on my property." Certainly these things are not violations of the non-aggression principle or acts of vigilantism.

Edited by 2046
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2046 said

"Well that's all good and well, but that still falls short of justifying a coercive monopoly, as I've pointed out before, being committed to the view that vigilantism is unjustified doesn't commit you to a monopoly government."

If vigilantism is deemed unjustified ,by both proponents of a monopoly of retalitory force being vested in the government and opponents of this idea(which i assume is the stance of anarcho'ists) do they come to the same conclusion by using two different standards?

Edited by tadmjones
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I don't think we should conflate defense and retaliation. I think there is a valid distinction. Defensive force is emergency force; retaliatory force is not. If I'm walking down the street and someone tries to steal my backpack and run away with it, I have the right to use force to prevent the theft. If the criminal escapes, however, I do not have the right to throw the guy in a cage when I find him. The regulations that the government puts on force should be to define and separate the realms of defensive/retaliatory force - leaving defensive force to individuals and taking sole responsibility for retaliatory force. Part of this means securing the individual's right to defensive weaponry, and limiting access to weaponry that could not conceivably be used for defense or that could only be used defensively in limited circumstances.

Sorry I took a while to get to this. I'm responding to like two threads at once.

I think this distinction is where the disagreement comes from. You are treating the concepts as subconcepts of force. I am treating defensive force (as distinguished from passive defense like a bulletproof vest) as a subset of retaliation, and in that sense I think the government may regulate use of weapons of any type. If I am using a gun in self-defense, well, I am retaliating against the initiation of force in a short-term context. Self-defense should certainly be permissible, but it's still retaliation, and would even require a criminal investigation. There are other kinds of retaliation than defense, to be sure, as you mentioned.

Defensive weapons as such don't exist, but if a weapon is primarily used as defensive rather than offensive (is there a such thing as a weapon that is used primarily as offensive?), that would only indicate a need for a different kind of regulation than primarily offensive weapons. We'd be in agreement at least to the extent that if a weapon has no reasonable defensive use, the access to that weapon ought to be regulated. I don't think that rules out that weapons that *do* have a reasonable defensive use ought not be regulated. Defensive weapons can be used irresponsibly; an irresponsible person possessing a weapon is threatening by nature of both the weapon *and* the individual. No one is omniscient, so in this specific case of gun use, a legal measure that doesn't hinder the responsible gun user ought to be implemented.

The question is fundamentally about the rights and status of the innocent individual. For someone where there's no concrete reason to think he or she might be a danger, can we still legitimately restrict gun sales in some fashion? Does he need to provide a good reason for buying the gun, or only prove that there's no specific reason to deny him a gun?

If there is no concrete reason to think that someone might be a danger when possessing, then there is no reason to restrict a gun sale, because the person not being a danger means there is no threat. Whether or not good reasons ought to be provided first depends on the weapon and the consequences of potential irresponsibility. For a handgun, no, because a limited number of people could be harmed. So, I think those only require proof that there is no specific reason to deny a purchase. For a nuke, yes, because thousands of people could be harmed. (possible use: planning to do asteroid mining). So, a purchase should only be permitted if there is a specific reason to allow a purchase.

Given that no actual government on Earth has ever been "proper" by this standard -- but every instance of government has been an initiatior of force against its own people -- then would it make sense for any individual to be willing to delegate his right of self-defense to such an authority?

Careful with this line of reasoning, because it's getting away from analyzing the nature of force and government, the main idea relevant to gun control. Indeed as far as we know, there aren't any governments that haven't initiated force at some point, based on what we think of rights now. But, the rights violations are certainly less severe, and violence happens less than it did even 300 years ago. Government in general over the course of history has shown to be steadily improving as a rights protector in many places. Why would anyone delegate? Because government works. Understanding of rights has improved over time as well, so it's reasonable to say many governments in the past took mistaken action on mistaken premises. That's what happens with fallibility.

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I would be comfortable in stipulating that an individual would recognize that principles of law should be used to solve disputes in a civil sense, and that the govt on different levels is tasked with apprehending criminals domestically, and the military of the govt tasked with protecting national interests. As far as ownership of arms per citizens the govt involvement would only be to apprehend those that use arms to infringe on rights.

You're restating your position on gun control, and again, I understand and respect the position you're taking. However, in order to resolve potentially thorny issues about where an individual can act on his own accord in self-defense -- versus what it is (and ought to be) illegal for an individual to do (because he has taken on the government's proper role) -- I believe we have to explore the nature of what Rand refers to here, which she describes as the "delegation" of a right of self-defense.

We have to dig a little bit into the fundamentals.

By what do you mean an individual or group becoming powerful?(or so powerful?) If the government is the principle of law , carried out by people acting according to the law, and its function is to protect the citizenry, who then is the citizenry protecting itself from in this case ?If it is from a rogue band of irrational nihilists then citizens should want the govt to use whatever means necessary to counter the threat. If it is to protect individuals from the actions of tyrannical govt , I think they call that revolution.

All right, so to put your position in concrete terms, what you mean is: there should be no restriction on private ownership of nuclear weapons. No "arms control" whatever. Is that correct?

As to what I mean by an individual becoming "so powerful that their government would no longer be able to stop their actions," suppose I had a nuclear weapon or several at my disposal. And suppose I decided that I would no longer pay taxes to the federal government, on account of my belief that such taxation is theft. Any attempt on the federal government's part to enforce its tax policy on me will be considered an initiation of the use of force, and I am willing to commit any or all of the weaponry at my disposal to a response.

Perhaps this is what you mean by "revolution"? I'm not certain. But in any event, at this point, what entity would thereafter "govern" me, and by what means?

To answer these kinds of questions I always try to imagine we are talking about a threat in downtown NYC. Let us imagine a terrorist group based out of Boston got ahold of a nuclear weapon and threatened to nuke NYC if we didn't disband the NY Yankees or something. Would the first thing we think of be "Omg, clearly we have to nuke Boston," or would we think "Well, we have to find these guys and get them before they can use it." And we would probably resort to some kind of special forces to do it, precisely because the surrounding people are innocents. At the most, in another country, we might have to bomb their buildings or some such because they have greater defenses, so you can see the variables for justifying a greater magnitude of defensive force go up.

I think we're agreed that any situation must be practically analyzed to determine the correct response -- and that "collateral damage" is certainly a factor, just as you say.

By "practical anarchy" are you referring to George H Smith's example of the angels and the halos?

I must admit that I don't have nearly the breadth of knowledge you do when it comes to various philosophical positions on "anarchy," and etc. My only knowledge of Smith thus far comes from his book on Atheism, which I read long ago (before reading Rand, actually). But I will read through your linked example, soon.

In any event, yes, I think if you have a right, and you delegate that right, then in order for it to count as a genuine right, you also have to have the ability to not delegate it, or to delegate it to someone else that meets the same standards.

This seems to make sense.

If I delegate you to go buy my groceries for me, in order for it to count as an actual right I am delegating to you, it surely must be an ongoing thing, for there would be no way to justify continuing to buy my groceries for me for the rest of my life, even if I say "no, I changed my mind, I don't like your choices and I want someone else to buy my groceries." And if I'm not free to say "no," then in what sense is this a "right" that I actually have and not something that was foisted on me without my consent?

And again.

Even Piekoff in OPAR seems to suggest that an anarchist would have the right not to delegate his right to self-defense to the government, just that he can't act as a vigilante. Well that's all good and well, but that still falls short of justifying a coercive monopoly, as I've pointed out before, being committed to the view that vigilantism is unjustified doesn't commit you to a monopoly government.

Just to probe this position a little... (I hope you don't mind?)

What, in your view, would distinguish a "vigilante" from someone who simply opted to withdraw his delegation of the right to self-defense (from whence must spring every aspect of governance, including the administration of justice)? What would separate a "vigilante" from a "government of one man"? And should this "vigilante" operate completely according to those principles and procedures by which we would otherwise recognize "objective justice," would we still consider him to have committed a crime? What would the nature of his crime be (i.e. against whom would he have initiated the use of force, and by what actual means)?

As far as would this draw a parallel to gun control, I don't think so. If we accept the consent doctrine, it still doesn't answer the question of whether any government could monopolize retaliatory force without violating the consent doctrine. But even if we assume it could, then it still doesn't get over the obstacle of "Well I'm not using it for retaliatory force. I'm just a collector. Or I am a museum owner. Or I have a hobby where I like to drive my tank around on my property." Certainly these things are not violations of the non-aggression principle or acts of vigilantism.

Well, I guess the idea is that, if a person can legitimately surrender his right to self-defense (for at times I suspect that we're discussing more than a mere "delegation"; after all, if I delegate grocery shopping to you, I'm empowering you to buy groceries in my name... but I'm not restricting myself in any way from also buying groceries for myself)... then perhaps the means of self-defense may rightly be considered a part of that surrender.

But yes, the "obstacle" you mention of people having other reasons (deemed "legitimate" by... some authority) for possessing these arms would still exist; and, in fact, I think that's the case that some are implicitly making. People filming war movies. Mining in outer space. Museum owners. These are "legitimate reasons" for possessing certain weapons which otherwise may be restricted or prohibited (or licensed and registered).

Careful with this line of reasoning, because it's getting away from analyzing the nature of force and government, the main idea relevant to gun control. Indeed as far as we know, there aren't any governments that haven't initiated force at some point, based on what we think of rights now.

Well, let's not tiptoe here. It isn't merely that "there aren't any governments that haven't initiated force at some point," is it? It's that there haven't been any governments that haven't initiated force routinely, continually, and seemingly woven into their very fabric. It is that no government exists on earth that does not continually initiate force against its citizens today, and that no such government will exist for the foreseeable future.

Let's keep in mind, too, that the point to all of this (and by "all of this," you may take me at the broadest possible meaning, whether our discussion, this Board, "government," or philosophy entire) is for the individual to benefit his own life. Ultimately gun control must rest upon the idea that an indivdual surrenders his means of self-defense to the government because he judges that it is in his own best interest to do so. I think that taking into consideration the "nature" of government-as-actually-practiced, as evidenced by every single example, from man's inception to present day, is necessary for an individual to make the proper decision with respect to his own life.

Say that tomorrow we hit upon the "perfect government" somehow, and now a call went out for everyone to turn in their weaponry (minus whatever would be necessary for personal self-defense, or licensed to film one's movies, etc.). Should one be in favor of such a thing? Would it be the smart thing to do to comply? Would achieving the ideal Constitution today ensure that one might not be faced with a tyrannical government X years down the line, and regret having given up his means of self-defense?

But, the rights violations are certainly less severe, and violence happens less than it did even 300 years ago. Government in general over the course of history has shown to be steadily improving as a rights protector in many places. Why would anyone delegate? Because government works. Understanding of rights has improved over time as well, so it's reasonable to say many governments in the past took mistaken action on mistaken premises. That's what happens with fallibility.

Mistakes have been made, and perhaps things are improving -- but this is an argument for an individual to divest himself against the protection that he may need, should another "mistake" be made? After all, we do not live according to the "sweep of history." We live individual lives. What should it matter to me that "today's government" is generally quite good and respectful of rights, if I should be the man whose property is confiscated according to eminent domain, or whose children are drafted into the military, or etc?

And besides, I think that such "improvement" happens in fits and starts, and a general trend is no guarantee that everything will move up in an uninterrupted fashion. Sometimes it is "two steps forward, one step back," as I'm sure Russia discovered after the Kerensky government, or Germany post-Weimar. Predicting the future isn't much my thing, but I've heard tell that some prominent Objectivists may believe that there's an impending religious/totalitarian uprising coming for the US or something like that.

So you have answered my question of "why would anyone delegate" with the response of "because government works." To that I would say that sometimes government works, and sometimes it does not. And where it does, I suppose an individual isn't much worse off for having relieved himself of the burden of his own self-defense... and where it does not? I suppose he is no longer much disposed to argue the point.

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One sense of statistic is something like "10,000 people are murdered with guns each year", and that would be a fact. Another sense of statistic is "you have a 1% chance to get murdered by a person with a gun". Such a number would be based on something like (# of people murdered with guns) / (US population), resulting in a percentage.

Statistics is actually a field with split based upon two fundamentally different interpretations. The flawed end is actually what you're speaking of, Spiral, which is about potentials. That viewpoint is the frequentist view of statistics (more or less a metaphysical generalization). Simply put, frequentism is how often an event occurs among a set of events. So, the slot machine with 8% chance of winning, that only means to a frequentist that out of taking a sample of 100 trials, 8 of those trials were a win. Even if you knew everything about the world, this chance would always be 8%, unless you change the context. Indeed, that is a potential in any case, since causality is often more useful. Unfortunately, context always changes. For example, if there is a 25% chance of rain tomorrow, what does that mean? That a sample of 100 tomorrows were taken, and it rained 25 times? That would be nonsense! Frequentism might work in games of chance like blackjack, but that's about it. Pretty useless if you ask me. This is also the kind Mark Twain made fun of.

The other interpretation for statistics that makes a whole lot more sense is the Bayesian interpretation. This means that statistics are just a measure of certainty, which is epistemological. People can't be 100% certain at all moments about *everything*. For instance, say you ordered a pizza with pepperoni. People are fallible, and you know that once in a while, an order is wrong, even the best pizza maker. You don't know the pizza maker today, so all things being equal, you don't know how reliable he is, but it's a good pizza place. You can reasonably say you're 98% sure that the order is correct without opening the box to your pizza, given that it's a simple order. Keep in mind no measure of frequency is here, nor are we talking about potential. We're just talking about how sure you are. You go home, without opening the box. You open the box finally at the dinner table, and the order is wrong! Thinking back on the situation, despite 2% uncertainty, opening the box at the pizza place is a simple thing to do. Also, you might alter your certainty to 90% for future orders. For a frequentist, the measure is 100% chance of a wrong order (1 wrong / 1 total orders). As you can see, there is a huge difference between the two views. Both imply different actions one should take in the face of uncertainty.

To bring this to gun control, or government policy, most actions will take place in some degree of uncertainty. Most of the time, government shouldn't and can't estimate accurately, and part of human fallibility is that individuals are usually better at such estimations (e.g. choosing for themselves what food to eat). Now, when violence enters in the picture - justified or not - there is a problem here. For a healthy society, there has to be a ban on retaliatory force (I'll try to address this part more specifically later, as I think it is important. The distinction between defensive and retaliatory). This is also a point where, if government is to do its jobs, policy decisions regarding violence must be made, and decisions must be made in the face of uncertainty. Statistics must be used in these circumstances, and not the frequentist version. Only Bayesian stats have any implication what to do today and in the future, while frequentist stats are about the past.

Not to belabor the point but there is something important I want to get to. Statistics that are produced with the intent to provide generalized information for generalized purposes have their use (when done for that), but ultimately they are a statement of ignorance. What I mean is that they are only useful when you don't know the facts and likely do not have the capacity to get them. The best use I can think of is certain sample poling that specifically targets people for generalized information (think polling or marketing demographics).

I agree with your base assessment because I get where your going with it but I want to clarify here. 10% of pizza's having the wrong topping may be a trend but it does not tell you why it happened or how to fix it. Only that it has the potential to happen and the cause in the current generalized context more common than shark attacks but not people who drive distracted. If you get a Pizza that is wrong, you don’t remedy the fact by generalizing numbers and working to reduce those numbers by plans unattached to the causes, causes we do not know yet since we are only thinking on generalizations. In this case you ask yourself how does this happen, discover what makes pizza places screw an order up (training, staff, peak-times that stress poor systems, etc.) and pick a pizza place that you judge to handle these issues better.

Of course, that is a lot of work for pizza so most people likely don’t bother. Or just switch pizza places and see if they do better. That is not the point.

But for guns it is the same thing. You don’t look at statistics, treat them as causal facts, and then build policies based on non-information. In this case, gun homicide is a species of homicide. Homicide is performed by people for various reasons based on many issues that deal with the mind of the murderer and his state, motive, psychology, context, etc. I’m not going to get into a list but it quickly breaks down to the fact the murder weapon has nothing more to do with what causes murder than a car has to do with accidents, for example. This makes sense after some induction sense we don’t look at other species of murder the same way we do for one’s involving guns (should we regulate life insure policies since it is a motive for murder?)

It’s just an unessential object that may be involved in the causal relationship that statistics can’t tell but real study of causal relationships can. At best the statistics can tell you where to look for causal relationships but then it is up to you to do that. In this case murder is a product of decisions that people make, not random objects they may own.

As for certainty, the thing that jumped out at me is that you implied the inability to gain certainty. The whole point of epistemology is to build knowledge so you can be certain of something. You’re right that statistics do not give certainty and that is my point, but you CAN gain certainty and the way to do that is move beyond generalized information and look for real causal relationships.

Integration is the process of gaining certainty.

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Just to probe this position a little... (I hope you don't mind?)

What, in your view, would distinguish a "vigilante" from someone who simply opted to withdraw his delegation of the right to self-defense (from whence must spring every aspect of governance, including the administration of justice)? What would separate a "vigilante" from a "government of one man"? And should this "vigilante" operate completely according to those principles and procedures by which we would otherwise recognize "objective justice," would we still consider him to have committed a crime? What would the nature of his crime be (i.e. against whom would he have initiated the use of force, and by what actual means)?

Keeping in mind a very narrow conception of vigilantism as dispensation of justice outside of procedural rights (and even this doesn't address all forms of what historically may be referred to as vigilantism), then I think it is easy to see that the attempt to do such is itself a rights violation which stems from the existence of such procedural rights. If we consider as a constituent element of "objective justice" such procedures (and even such principles as "you can't be a judge in your own case" which would very plainly rule out vigilantism and monopoly government [in fact, a monopoly government then would be considered an illegal vigilante]), then we can see how vigilantism would be illegal under an objective law code. In justifying such procedural rights, I agree with Diana Hshieh's case here, and even she seems to recognize that while it would rule out some kinds of anarchism, it wouldn't rule out others, but then flippantly dismisses the idea that the free market could provide exactly what she's talking about.
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Keeping in mind a very narrow conception of vigilantism as dispensation of justice outside of procedural rights (and even this doesn't address all forms of what historically may be referred to as vigilantism), then I think it is easy to see that the attempt to do such is itself a rights violation which stems from the existence of such procedural rights. If we consider as a constituent element of "objective justice" such procedures (and even such principles as "you can't be a judge in your own case" which would very plainly rule out vigilantism and monopoly government [in fact, a monopoly government then would be considered an illegal vigilante]), then we can see how vigilantism would be illegal under an objective law code. In justifying such procedural rights, I agree with Diana Hshieh's case here, and even she seems to recognize that while it would rule out some kinds of anarchism, it wouldn't rule out others, but then flippantly dismisses the idea that the free market could provide exactly what she's talking about.

It has become apparent to me that I'll have to give all of these matters much more thought -- and do some reading besides. The Smith essay to which you'd linked, I've only just read. It is very interesting and does indeed seem to echo some of the thoughts and questions I've had in trying to engage this subject. So thank you for that, and if you have any other recommendations on further reading, I'd love to hear them.

Since I'm here, however, on the subject of "procedural rights" and the inability of a man to "be a judge in his own case," I wonder: a man on a (nearly) deserted island, who has no recourse to a court or etc. Is it impossible for such a man to act justly? Can no man act on his own behalf with justice, because (accounting to "procedural rights"), to act on behalf of oneself is unjust of its very nature?

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It has become apparent to me that I'll have to give all of these matters much more thought -- and do some reading besides. The Smith essay to which you'd linked, I've only just read. It is very interesting and does indeed seem to echo some of the thoughts and questions I've had in trying to engage this subject. So thank you for that, and if you have any other recommendations on further reading, I'd love to hear them.

Since I'm here, however, on the subject of "procedural rights" and the inability of a man to "be a judge in his own case," I wonder: a man on a (nearly) deserted island, who has no recourse to a court or etc. Is it impossible for such a man to act justly? Can no man act on his own behalf with justice, because (accounting to "procedural rights"), to act on behalf of oneself is unjust of its very nature?

Oh yeah, I was gonna add something about what if you were in a "frontier" or deserted island type context or some such that you couldn't really submit your procedures to a third party arbiter or convene a court session to prove to everyone what is right or not. In that case, keeping with the principle that the requirements of justice must be contextual, then I think the criterion would necessarily have to change. It wouldn't really make sense if justice demanded that you couldn't defend your life. And oh yeah, I forgot to link to the Diana Hsieh posting on legal objectivity and vigilantism here.
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Suppose I want to be able to defend myself against the future possibility of a tyrannical government, and so I would like to possess a nuclear weapon so that, should the government turn tyrannical and initiate force against its citizenry, I would have the capability of mounting a meaningful response in the name of self-defense. I may even hold out some hope that my mere possession of such a thing will function as a deterrent against said tyranny.

Is there any problem with my purchase and maintenance of this weapon? Ought there be?

Yes. The source of the problem is the very reason why there is a need for ONE government/country: that the protection of individuals rights can only be done in the framework of an objectively defined system of laws, enforced by an entity with a monopoly on retaliatory force.

There is a need for such a framework, and, within that framework, it obviously is a problem if you try to act as a separate wielder of retaliatory force. It's not so much that you are now a second government: it's that, from the perspective of the people around you, your moral position, as this second government, is vastly inferior to that of the first government, which is elected and operating within objective law. From their perspective, you are the tyrant. After all, you have unlimited political power (that you promise to only use for good, but a benevolent tyrant is still a tyrant).

You are operating without any objective laws. So what could possibly make you an objectively better guardian of liberty than the actual, representative, law abiding government of your country?

Besides, a much better use of your nuclear weapon, as a guardian against tyranny, would be if you kept it hidden from the government until the time came to reveal it. Then, you would have a superior moral position as a rebel against a tyrant, rather than an anarchist against a legitimate government. In the mean time you would of course be an outlaw (meaning that you would be subject to punishment, if caught). That is a price you'd have to pay, if you wanted to act as an insurance policy (same as any vigilante).

P.S. This argument does not apply to small arms, available to everyone. Small arms do not grant their wielders political power, precisely because they are available to everyone. They have the exact opposite effect, of limiting any one group's political power.

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Criminals exist, who violate our rights to greater or lesser extents.

We cannot get rid of all criminals, and thus all violations of people's rights. No government could perfectly do this.

A proper government is one that, to the greatest extent possible, should secure the rights of the individuals its serves.

Outlawing every single gun in the USA would violate the rights of many, and prevent the violation of the rights of others. We can debate all day about the extents of either of these, and it would be highly contextual and varied, but the above generalized fact is demonstrably true.

The decision, therefore, is a trade-off at some level which is determined by the context. We need to trade-off the right of hobbyists, hunters, and those interest in using a gun for personal self-defense against that of innocent people who are killed using weapons which the former my desire.

There is no absolute right to "guns" (as I said, a sloppy, lazy term used by HB in his article), and regulating and banning weapons in the proper context is absolutely justifiable insofar as your goal is to protect the rights of individuals.

In order to make this trade-off--which is a guess at the future actions of humans--we should use every bit of knowledge we have. We know, for instance, that almost no crimes are committed with long barrel single-shot shotguns, and we know a lot of hunters desire those for their recreation. This is a no-brainer trade-off. Banning these weapons will violate far more rights than it would prevent the violation of.

We also know that a "saturday night special" pistol is almost always used for a crime, and is uninteresting to hunters and hobbyists. Again, a no-brainer trade-off. Banning these weapons (within a certain geographical area where the issue is acute) is something which will secure far more rights than it would violate.

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Outlawing every single gun in the USA would violate the rights of many, and prevent the violation of the rights of others. We can debate all day about the extents of either of these, and it would be highly contextual and varied, but the above generalized fact is demonstrably true.

Such a move would assure that only criminals, the police and the army had fire arms. It would no doubt cause many otherwise law abiding citizens into break-laws, those citizens who would not surrender their weapons, but hide them until needed.

Aside from doubtful Constitutionality, denying civilians firearms would be totally non-productive and most likely harmful.

ruveyn1

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Such a move would assure that only criminals, the police and the army had fire arms. It would no doubt cause many otherwise law abiding citizens into break-laws, those citizens who would not surrender their weapons, but hide them until needed.

Aside from doubtful Constitutionality, denying civilians firearms would be totally non-productive and most likely harmful.

ruveyn1

Most likely. Maybe. Maybe not. How do we find out then? What tools of knowledge might we use in order to test some of those assumptions?

If those assumptions were wrong (within a certain geographical context for instance), then we'd have a clear case for the regulation of weapons. If they were right, then we'd weigh on the side of protecting citizens from their rights being violated.

As for Constitutionality, I won't debate what our musket-wielding forefathers had in mind, but you should remind yourself that beyond the 2nd Amendment there's the 16th Amendment, enabling income taxes. It's best to figure out what is right first, and then get into the legal arguments as to what can be done in the here and now. FWIW, however, gun regulation in the US exists in many places and forms, and it has survived Constitutional challenges.

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We also know that a "saturday night special" pistol is almost always used for a crime, and is uninteresting to hunters and hobbyists.

Saturday night special is a slang term for a cheap handgun. If you mean something else by it, I didn't understand. And please clarify what you mean by "almost always used for a crime." Do you mean to say that almost all crimes use such weapons? That almost all guns used in crimes are such weapons? Something else? I don't have access to any data, but my own experience with firearms retail suggests to me that many such guns are sold every day. A thousand a day would not surprise me. My point is that the implications of your statement are huge, so I'd appreciate a little more clarity.

I also noticed that you only mentioned hunters and hobbyists as people who might have a legitimate interest in owning a gun. Considering that self-defense is the most common reason to own a gun, I expect the issue not to be so casually dismissed. Choosing who to violate is a depraved moral calculus; I suggest being extra sensitive to the stated motivations of your intended victims if you want them to sanction their own victimhood. Better yet, treat a conflict of rights as the dead end that it is and bring the discussion back to identifying the contexts that define the right to possess a weapon.

Edited by FeatherFall
Typo correction, clarity
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Saturday night special is a slang term for a cheap handgun. If you mean something else by it, I didn't understand.

Yes, it's a cheap handgun, usually of a small caliber.

And please clarify what you mean by "almost always used for a crime." Do you mean to say that almost all crimes use such weapons? That almost all guns used in crimes are such weapons? Something else?

Well, nominally I meant what I said, which is that they are generally used for crime, as far as I know--which is partially based on the fact that they are not interesting to hobbyists and collectors.

I was not, however, making any particular point about this particular class of weapon--and I'll gladly stipulate that maybe I got those stats wrong. It doesn't make any difference to my point. My point was that we use stats to help determine policy, whatever those stats might be.

I also noticed that you only mentioned hunters and hobbyists as people who might have a legitimate interest in owning a gun. Considering that self-defense is the most common reason to own a gun, I expect the issue not to be so casually dismissed.

I'm glad you share my interest in using aggregated data to determine policy :-). Again, I don't pretend to know the ins and outs of the data in every context, only that the the law be partially determined by it (both the data and the context), whatever it may be.

Choosing who to violate is a depraved moral calculus; I suggest being extra sensitive to the stated motivations of your intended victims if you want them to sanction their own victimhood. Better yet, treat a conflict of rights as the dead end that it is and bring the discussion back to identifying the contexts that define the right to possess a weapon.

You'll go round and round forever trying to find some sort of perfect government that completely eliminates the violation of rights. Criminals will always find some way of achieving success in some capacity, so rights will be violated in any society we can possibly dream up.

Insofar as you are for the banning or regulation of anything--including any sort of licensing--then you are for the curtailment of free trade in some capacity, and the curtailment of free movement, etc. Now, is it right to call such regulation a "curtailment of rights"? I'd have to think about that, but you might be able to make a case that it shouldn't be... Perhaps this is semantics to some extent...

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I don't think the difference is semantic. Rights violations are always going to happen - probably even by the government; but to admit this is not to concede that the government should violate rights by design.

If I don't have a right to a nuclear weapon, it isn't a violation of my rights to bar me from owning one. I suggested in another thread that there is currently no context in which my use of a nuclear weapon could be defensive. I also suggested that the context could change - there could be a weird scenario where defensive use is possible. But I don't see how the context could be set by anything other than defensive use. A comprehensive investigation of the application of defensive force could be it's own field of study, so there's no way we're going to come to all of the proper conclusions on this message board. The conversation could still be interesting and enlightening. I'd be interested in pursuing that discussion, but I feel like I've been neglectful of a few other threads, so I'm not going to continue with this one until I've responded to those.

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I agree completely, FF: it's all about context, and there are trade-offs.

To be clear, I wasn't focused on the what in this discussion initially, but the how.

HB implied that we have an absolute right to own "guns" in any context imaginable. Wrong. He also implied that the use of statistical knowledge is invalid in implies some sort of collectivist thinking. Wrong. He then went on to imply, logically, that the use of statistical knowledge is invalid in the formation of any bit of government policy. Wrong.

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Don’t look at populations; don’t ask: among 300 million Americans, would law X result in more lives being saved than lost? That sort of cost-benefit analysis is amoral; lives are not balanceable one against the other. And, in practice, it leads to endlessly battling statistical studies.

When it comes to answering questions about anything in uncertainty, statistics are needed. Indeed, certainty is possible with enough time, but when it comes to violence and rights violations, there isn't time to figure out to absolute certainty. Furthermore, testing out actions (laws in this context) are necessary to see if they work. Not that there should not be careful analysis beforehand, but not all consequences can be known beforehand. Statistics, if used properly, are highly informative for what actions to take when actions should be taken. When any person(s) make a decision, statistics are part of the process. That means the government should also use statistics in the cases where it should take action. Principles are important to use of course, but it's just a tool of reasoning applied to a context -- statistics are part of a context. Yeah, statistics need to be "battled", but that's what reasoning is. The process of discovery is endless, and new information must be integrated or rejected all the time.

In my estimation, Binswanger is presenting the topic of gun control in a deontological way, i.e. focus on the "rule" of absolute individual rights to property without regard to context.

An objective threat is constituted by specific evidence of a clear and present danger to someone’s person or property. For instance, waving a gun around (“brandishing”) is an objective threat to the individuals in the vicinity. Having a rifle at home in the attic is not. Carrying a concealed pistol is not (until and unless it is drawn).

I agree with these words, but how does one figure out that brandishing a gun is actually an objective threat? I can't predict with 100% accuracy that the brandisher will ever fire a shot. There is no reliable way to predict such behavior; there is no reliable way to *predict* rationality and irrationality. To some extent, statistics are used to conclude that this is a threat. Brandishing a weapon per se isn't wrong, but as far as I know, the intention is usually to threaten someone. Key word: usually. That's statistics. Keep in mind, though, I'm saying all this under the assumption that weapons are a thing that in some circumstances can be controlled (nukes, chemical weapons, etc). I'm saying that if it's proper to have some regulation of weapons, then the government should use the same considerations as any individual would.

Likewise, the fact that there are a certain number of accidental injuries from guns is no justification for regulating or banning the ownership of guns for everyone. And the tragic fact that the psychotic killer at Newtown used a gun to kill school children is zero grounds for disarming teachers and school personnel.

Perhaps not evidence for *banning* weapons entirely, but it's certainly evidence for *regulation*. Notice that Binswanger says psychotic killer. I find that he is implying that the shooter's mental problems had a significant impact on leading to the shooting. Should such a person be allowed to have a gun? Probably not, that specific person is a threat, because of the gun; without the gun, the person is probably not a threat. Let me pose this in another way:

Suppose a shooting occurs, with one of several possible primary factors. These are random possibilities.

Severe mental dysfunction on the level of psychosis

Self-defense

Pre-meditated murder

Other

None of these are wild possibilities, and often there will be more. Say 10% of shootings of occur primarily due to psychosis, 50% self-defense, 5% pre-meditated murder, and 35% for other. Now, because of the amount of self-defense in this circumstance, or other reasons, banning guns would probably be bad. 10% due to severe mental dysfunction as I specified probably would justify saying that at the least, any gun owner needs mental competence enough to be a responsible gun user. A license may suffice. With pre-meditated murder, I don't think there is a regulatory procedure that can be reasonably implemented. But if at least one case of a rights violation can be stopped, it should be. Remember that the context is the use of force!

Featherfall, you may have missed my previous post in this thread (#58). I addressed something you said in another threat, and I'm curious about what you'd say.

Edited by Eiuol
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EIuol, your post was one of those I was putting off until I had enough time to respond properly. There's a little reminder link on the top of my browser with your name on it. I've actually attempted a response twice already, but could never finish due to higher-priority interruptions. Speaking of interruptions, I have the pleasure of dealing with a particularly cute 2 year old interruption right now. I'll be back soon.

Edited by FeatherFall
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  • 3 weeks later...

Eiuol, thanks for being patient.

I was indeed treating both self-defense and retaliation as first-order subconcepts of force. You think retaliation is the first-order subconcept, and self-defense is a second-order subconcept (by way of being a first-order subconcept of retaliation). You may be correct, and I'm interested in being convinced. But I don't see how that will help us resolve the discussion. It seems to me that self-defense would still be distinguishable from a different second-order subconcept of force for which I don't have a word. That word would denote the type of force the government uses to prosecute criminals; the type that re-establishes force after a force-based emergency event has resolved.

Defensive weapons can be used irresponsibly; an irresponsible person possessing a weapon is threatening by nature of both the weapon *and* the individual. No one is omniscient, so in this specific case of gun use, a legal measure that doesn't hinder the responsible gun user ought to be implemented.

I agree with this. An individual's behavior/history are part of the context that define how that individual may exercise his right to self-defense.

Edit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6TixVdN0SI.

Edited by FeatherFall
grammar, video
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